Reverse-Engineering Persona

January 24, 2010

If you’ve ever had to write an essay about something seemingly meaningless, you probably know how this works. You pick a thought (the more unlikely the better), connect everything to it (the less obvious the connections the better), and make sure to overlook anything that goes against your “theory.” Does this projection of meaning onto chaos sound like what art critics do?

All is well until you start believing your own words. That is what happened to me, and I am open-sourcing some of them here, for the whole world to point and laugh and maybe even plagiarize. This story is about Bergman’s Persona and a certain Andalusian Dog, so if you haven’t seen those species yet, come back later.

Persona: the metafilm

An unwanted child, an insecure man, an arrogant genius, Ingmar Bergman directed what could very well be the most cryptic movie ever made. Persona is painted in two layers: a foreground that makes sense on a background that mystifies. The upper stratum is Alma’s story of self-acceptance, of coming to terms with her dark side. The backdrop is Bergman’s meditation on cinematography.

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HOW TO Enjoy Mushy Eighties Films

February 13, 2008

Like this one.

  • Don’t try to draw parallels between yourself and the characters. Ideally, don’t think about your own life at all.
  • Laugh. Out loud. At every opportunity.
  • Count the clichés. Plus the older ones. “Same difference.”
  • Notice the exaggerations and the stereotypes.
  • Don’t you like it when the characters are talking to themselves?

Requiem for a Dream

December 30, 2007

I decided I’ll watch the movie after seeing certain people obsessing over it. Out of everything that I’ve seen, this one is the most shocking. A movie about addiction, obsession and madness, it depicts the downward-spiraling lives of four characters symbolically connected to three seasons:

  • Summer (the dream; high hopes)
  • Fall (the downfall)
  • Winter (the requiem; hitting the bottom)

There is no Spring, no rebirth, no Phoenix of hope. But that is exactly the point of the movie; a happy ending would have ruined everything. I felt as if I were falling throughout the 102 minutes of it; and the end left me stranded; in shock. I will not watch anything else until this sinks in. Just like I don’t want to read anything “serious” for a while after this.

Aside from the flawless acting and the painfully powerful idea/message, this movie impresses with much more. The director uses unusual techniques for some of the tense moments, such as very short shots repeated over and over in only a few seconds, and lots of split screens. The soundtrack is, again, outstanding. The theme, Lux Aeterna (listen here), is a composition that will drag you back into the movie with surprising force. It is a reiteration of the plot in less than four minutes: starting slowly, reaching its first climax of hope and beatitude, falling, then rising again with a kind of desperate hope, then falling, quickly and definitely.

And finally, the web site is a work of art in itself. Before, you could say I hated flash; well, not anymore. But it makes sense only after you watch the movie.

Someday, I also want to read the novel the film is based on.

V for Vendetta revisited

December 29, 2007

ideas are bulletproofLast night I decided to watch V for Vendetta for a second time. The first time I’ve seen it, not long after its release, the movie failed to impress me. This time, the same flaws jumped to my eyes: bad (fake) acting here and there and too many special effects.

But the movie makes much more sense after having read 1984. Its ending is ruined by the fact that it’s happy / hopeful. Say what you will, but I still believe that 1984’s gloomy ending makes the strong final impression necessary to such a book. Happy endings always leave me feeling empty inside.

PS. For a parade of hidden V / 5 symbolism, check the Wikipedia page. Vi Veri Veniversum Vivus Vici.